Numb. 25:1 Now Israel dwelled in Shittim, and the people began to commit harlotry in among the daughters of Moab.
וַתִּקְרֶאןָ לָעָם לְזִבְחֵי אֱלֹהֵיהֶן וַיֹּאכַל הָעָם וַיִּשְׁתַּחֲוּוּ לֵאלֹהֵיהֶן 25:2
Numb. 25:2 And they called to the people, to the sacrifices of their gods; and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. [Return to Numb. 31:18]
The three plural third-person pronouns in the verse are all feminine. So it is the daughters of Moab who were calling the Israelites to their sacrifices and to their gods.
Numb. 25:3 And Israel joined himself to Baal-peor, and the “anger” of the Lord flared because of Israel. [Return to Deut. 4:3]
וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֶל־מֹשֶׁה קַח אֶת־כָּל־רָאשֵׁי הָעָם וְהֹוקַע אֹותָם לַיהוָה נֶגֶד הַשָּׁמֶשׁ וְיָשֹׁב חֲרֹון אַף־ 25:4
Numb. 25:4 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Take all the chiefs of the people and hang them up to the Lord in front of the sun, so that the fierce ‘wrath’ of the Lord withdraws from Israel.”
וַיֹּאמֶר מֹשֶׁה אֶל־שֹׁפְטֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל הִרְגוּ אִישׁ אֲנָשָׁיו הַנִּצְמָדִים לְבַעַל פְּעֹור 25:5
Numb. 25:5 So Moses said to the judges of Israel, “Each one slay his men who have been joining themselves to Baal-peor.” [Return to Hose. 9:10]
Once again, Moses appears to disregard the Lord’s instructions and gives his own to the judges. I believe this is the sixth instance of such apparent disobedience on Moses’ part.
וְהִנֵּה אִישׁ מִבְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל בָּא וַיַּקְרֵב אֶל־אֶחָיו אֶת־הַמִּדְיָנִית לְעֵינֵי מֹשֶׁה וּלְעֵינֵי כָּל־עֲדַת בְּנֵי־ 25:6
יִשְׂרָאֵל וְהֵמָּה בֹכִים פֶּתַח אֹהֶל מֹועֵד
Numb. 25:6 Then behold, one of the children of Israel came and brought a Midianite woman to his brothers in the sight of Moses and in the sight of all the congregation of the children of Israel, and they were weeping at the entrance of the tent of meeting.
וַיַּרְא פִּינְחָס בֶּן־אֶלְעָזָר בֶּן־אַהֲרֹן הַכֹּהֵן וַיָּקָם מִתֹּוךְ הָעֵדָה וַיִּקַּח רֹמַח בְּיָדֹו 25:7
Numb. 25:7 And Pinehas son of Eleazar son of Aaron, the priest, saw, and he arose from the midst of the congregation and took a spear in his hand.
Because this verse mentions a grandson of Aaron, we must assume that the Israelites were at this time well into their forty-year wandering. We will see corroboration of this conclusion in the next chapter.
וַיָּבֹא אַחַר אִישׁ־יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶל־הַקֻּבָּה וַיִּדְקֹר אֶת־שְׁנֵיהֶם אֵת אִישׁ יִשְׂרָאֵל וְאֶת־הָאִשָּׁה אֶל־קֳבָתָהּ 25:8
וַתֵּעָצַר הַמַּגֵּפָה מֵעַל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל
Numb. 25:8 And he went after the man of Israel to the tent and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel, and the woman through her belly; then the pestilence was removed from the children of Israel.
The term הַקֻּבָּה, translated as the tent, appears no where else in the bible. Its special use here implies much. The Hebrew root of the word also means chamber, harlot’s tent, belly, curse, and womb. Again the scribe has used an uncommon turn of word to impart additional meaning to a phrase. He even used one of the other derivations – belly – of the root again in the same verse. Yet this verse reveals even more. First, the man must have taken the woman to his tent or the tent of a relative, not to the tent of meeting. The scribe would not have used the special term for tent if he was referring to the tent of meeting. Second, in this verse we are told why, in v. 25:6, the congregation was weeping at the tent of meeting. A pestilence had come upon them because of their idolatry, and now, after the death of the sinners, it had been withdrawn.
וַיִּהְיוּ הַמֵּתִים בַּמַּגֵּפָה אַרְבָּעָה וְעֶשְׂרִים אָלֶף 25:9
Numb. 25:9 And the dead by the plague were twenty-four thousand.
וַיְדַבֵּר יְהוָה אֶל־מֹשֶׁה לֵּאמֹר 25:10
Numb. 25:10 And the Lord spoke to Moses saying,
פִּינְחָס בֶּן־אֶלְעָזָר בֶּן־אַהֲרֹן הַכֹּהֵן הֵשִׁיב אֶת־חֲמָתִי מֵעַל בְּנֵי־יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּקַנְאֹו אֶת־קִנְאָתִי בְּתֹוכָם 25:11
וְלֹא־כִלִּיתִי אֶת־בְּנֵי־יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּקִנְאָתִי
Numb. 25:11 “Pinehas son of Eleazar son of Aaron, the priest, has turned away My ‘wrath’ from the children of Israel by his appeasing My possessiveness in their midst, so I did not consume the children of Israel in My possessiveness.”
In this verse we encounter the first reference in most, if not all, bibles to God’s “jealousy.” According to my understanding, admittedly perhaps naïve (but in my opinion strongly supported by the evidence), God does not exhibit jealousy. I believe that trait is possessed only by humans and some animals. In keeping with the apparent belief of the ancients, the scribe would probably not have searched for a less human description of God’s trait, easily assuming that it was appropriate. But I have, and I believe that the jealousy the scribe refers to is better described as possessiveness or sense of ownership. After all, the Lord tells us time and again that the children of Israel are His special possession.
לָכֵן אֱמֹר הִנְנִי נֹתֵן לֹו אֶת־בְּרִיתִי שָׁלֹום 25:12
Numb. 25:12 Therefore He said, “Behold, I am giving My covenant of peace to him.”
וְהָיְתָה לֹּו וּלְזַרְעֹו אַחֲרָיו בְּרִית כְּהֻנַּת עֹולָם תַּחַת אֲשֶׁר קִנֵּא לֵאלֹהָיו וַיְכַפֵּר עַל־בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל 25:13
Numb. 25:13 “And it shall be an everlasting covenant of priesthood for him and for his seed after him, in that he was zealous for his God and made atonement for the children of Israel.”
Well, this is very interesting, I think. If this story is true and accurate -- and we have to believe it is -- then it can lead to disturbingly troubling implications. Imagine! The Lord made an everlasting covenant of peace with Pinehas and his descendants because he atoned for the children of Israel by taking the life of a sinner (and his “mistress”). Then could Zimri, who is identified in the next verse, be considered a sin offering? One that might be a harbinger of a later sacrifice to atone for the world? The only difference that might negate the similarity is that Zimri was an unclean sacrifice in that he was a sinner. My, my, what to make of this!
וְשֵׁם אִישׁ יִשְׂרָאֵל הַמֻּכֶּה אֲשֶׁר הֻכָּה אֶת־הַמִּדְיָנִית זִמְרִי בֶּן־סָלוּא נְשִׂיא בֵית־אָב לַשִּׁמְעֹנִי 25:14
Numb. 25:14 Now the name of the man of Israel who had been slain, who had gotten the Midianite woman slain, was Zimri son of Salu, a chief of the house of a father to the Simeonite.
I don’t know if it means anything, but the name Zimri can mean my music. He was a Simeonite prince. And Salu can mean weighed.
וְשֵׁם הָאִשָּׁה הַמֻּכָּה הַמִּדְיָנִית כָּזְבִּי בַת־צוּר רֹאשׁ אֻמֹּות בֵּית־אָב בְּמִדְיָן הוּא 25:15
Numb. 25:15 And the name of the slain Midianite woman was Cozbi, the daughter of Zur. He was head of peoples of the house of a forefather in Midian.
And the name Cozbi can mean my lie in Hebrew. And Zur can mean rock in Hebrew.
Numb. 25:16 And the Lord spoke to Moses saying,
צָרֹור אֶת־הַמִּדְיָנִים וְהִכִּיתֶם אֹותָם 25:17
Numb. 25:17 “Besiege the Midianites and you shall smite them.”
כִּי צֹרְרִים הֵם לָכֶם בְּנִכְלֵיהֶם אֲשֶׁר־נִכְּלוּ לָכֶם עַל־דְּבַר־פְּעֹור וְעַל־דְּבַר כָּזְבִּי בַת־נְשִׂיא מִדְיָן 25:18
אֲחֹתָם הַמֻּכָּה בְיֹום־הַמַּגֵּפָה עַל־דְּבַר־פְּעֹור
Numb. 25:18 “For they are your harassers, with their wiles by which they dealt subtly with you about the matter of Peor and about the matter of Cozbi, the daughter of a prince of Midian, their slain sister, in the time of the plague over the matter of Peor.”
Numb. 25:19 And it happened after the plague
This is a strange place to end the chapter, as the verse continues into Chapter 26. Why doesn’t the chapter end with v. 25:18? How did someone decide that it should end here? As I’ve mentioned, there is no substantial separation in the Torah scroll between verses or chapters, only four blank lines between books. So it seems to me that the chapter should have ended with v. 25:18, or even with v. 25:15. On the surface, very puzzling! But this episode might be setting the stage for the events of Chapter 31. [Return to Numb. 31:2]